Critics blast Giorgio Mammoliti's 'cockroach' comments, while councillor says he's received a death threat

After calling some of his constituents cockroaches in an interview, Toronto Coun. Giorgio Mammoliti is facing a sharp backlash from those who say his comments are racist.

Jane-Finch resident says remarks amount to 'pure racism'

Coun. Giorgio Mammoliti says he received a death threat via Instagram days after calling criminals who live in Toronto Community Housing buildings 'cockroaches.' (Christopher Katsarov/Canadian Press)

After calling some of his constituents cockroaches in an interview, Toronto Coun. Giorgio Mammoliti is facing a sharp backlash from those who say his comments are racist.

Amid the blowback, Mammoliti said Wednesday he's received a death threat via Instagram.

The councillor for Ward 7, York West, made the controversial comment during an appearance on Rebel Media this week, while discussing his plan to deal with criminals living in social housing buildings in communities like Jane and Finch.

"I see it like spraying down a building full of cockroaches," he said of his preferred option of evicting tenants who are involved in crime.

"Scatter them. Evict them. Get them out of Jane and Finch completely."

Mammoliti also advocates for a plan to completely knock down the area's social housing buildings and replace them with mixed housing in an interview conducted just over two months from a municipal election in which he'll seek re-election.

Sabrina Gopaul, a community health worker and anti-poverty advocate who goes by the name Butterfly, told CBC Radio's Metro Morning that Mammoliti's remarks are "pure racism."

"It's an attack on poor working communities," said Gopaul, who also contributes to the community news site Jane-Finch.com. You can listen to the full interview below:

In conversation with the host of a right-wing radio show, Toronto city councillor Georgio Mammoliti refers to drug dealers living in public housing as "cockroaches". That part of the interview has been generating a lot of debate. Two activists from Jane and Finch weigh in on whether their councillor has gone too far. 11:51

Gopaul said while Mammoliti claims to be focused on stopping crime, he isn't looking at other solutions that could really help the community.

"Where's the intervention? This is just hate," said Gopaul.

Sam Tecle, a Jane and Finch resident, said he sees Mammoliti's "disgusting" comments as attacks on his neighbours' humanity. Tecle also warns Mammoliti's comments are creating a dim view of social housing, something he said is being done to get rid of it entirely.

"That's where everybody lives … People deserve to live somewhere," Tecle told Metro Morning.

Councillor publicizes details of online threat

Amid the backlash, Mammoliti took the unusual step of issuing a news release about receiving a death threat, which is printed in the release itself.

"Choose your words wisely, or we will scatter your brains across this city!" said an Instagram post by the user @natturneronline — the handle of Nat Turner, a music producer and DJ who used to live in the area.

Toronto police confirmed they have received a complaint from the councillor.

Mammoliti's office said he has received other threats while in office, but said this one is being taken seriously.

In the comments of the Instagram post, the @reelectgiorgio account actually engages Turner and suggests he's ignorant.

Musician behind Instagram post says he just wants answers

Turner told CBC Toronto he has no plans to hurt Mammoliti but admits he was angry after watching the Rebel interview and wants some answers from the councillor about the words he's using.

"I'm not here to take street justice or anything like that," he said.

"I just want him to take responsibility for the things he's saying and the way he's coming across to people — it's very insensitive."

In his online comments, Turner accused Mammoliti of allowing funding for social programs in that area to lapse while not doing enough to rehabilitate those involved in crime.

"It just seemed like he didn't care about what the youth actually go through in that community and the problems that they deal with," he said.

As for the election, Turner said he's not sure whether Mammoliti's comments will actually change anything, but he said he's hopeful they will.

With files from Metro Morning